Reducing Welfare and Creating Jobs in the New Millennium
Last week I announced that New York City has reached two historic milestones - City welfare rolls dipped below 600,000, and job growth for 1999 set a new City record.
This is a remarkable turnaround. As of February 2000, the latest month for which data is available, City welfare rolls are down to 599,387 public assistance recipients, a 48.4% drop since March 1995. That marks the first time since April 1967 that the number of people on public assistance has been below 600,000. Also in February, 22,741 people left the welfare rolls, the largest ever single-month drop.
Meanwhile, record job growth continues into 2000. In 1999, the City added 84,000 private sector jobs, shattering the previous record of 76,000 set in 1998. And last month, 18,000 new jobs were created, the largest single month for job growth that the city has ever had, bringing the total number of jobs created since December 1993 to 380,000.
New York City continues to lead the nation in transforming welfare and expanding opportunity. We're moving people from dependency to self-sufficiency in record numbers, and we're outpacing the nation in economic growth. Each of these trends is, in its own right, crucial to the health of the City. But both are also intimately connected. People coming off welfare are walking into the hottest job market in memory.
This is a very progressive and positive direction for the City. It's precisely the direction in which the lives of people should move - away from dependency and toward self-sufficiency. That's how you really take care of people-not encouraging and perpetuating dependency, but making increasing numbers of people independent.
Back in 1995, no one would have thought that we could have accomplished what we've managed to accomplish over the last six years in these two crucial areas. The basic attitude of the City back then was, "It cannot be done, not in New York." Now that attitude has changed entirely. Now people hold their heads high, and know that we can build a better city with greater opportunities for everyone.
The City's doing great, and a lot of it has to do with the great confidence that people have in the City. I knew that we could turn the City around with sensible economic policies, reducing the tax burden on the citizens of the City -- which we've gotten down to the lowest percentage tax since probably the 1960s -- and by negotiating with businesses to keep them in the City.
And the dramatic reductions in crime have played a very critical role. When you go from being one of the more dangerous cities in the country to being the safest large City in America, and when you go from being a City that ignored people's quality-of-life concerns to one that works hard to remove graffiti, to stop street-level drug dealing, and to clean up the streets and take on other supposedly "small" crimes, you send the message to businesses that creating jobs in your City is a good and a sound investment.
So far it's been one heck of a good Leap Year for the City of New York. We're leaping in the right direction, away from dependence and toward independence. That's further proof that our City's economic renaissance continues into the new millennium.